Welcome To The Norwegian House In Yogyakarta

By Mr. Stein Kristiansen, Professor of Development Studies at the
Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences, University
of Agder, Kristiansand,
Norway, and also visiting
Professor at Gadjah Mada University,
Yogyakarta.

 

Centrally located on the campus of Gadjah Mada University (UGM) in Yogyakarta, you will find the Norwegian House. The
address is Sekip K-3, close to Jl. Kaliurang. If you go there during working
hours on an ordinary day, researchers will be working on their computers, or
maybe some senior faculty members will be debating by the round table in the
meeting room, discussing transparency and good governance. The housekeepers
will be eager to welcome you and serve you a cup of tea or coffee. Quite often,
you will also find someone living there, most probably from the University of Agder
in Kristiansand, Norway. The house has been a centre
for Indonesian-Norwegian academic collaboration over the past ten years. Many
Indonesian visitors complain, but we accept it as a compliment, that the house
is more like a Rumah Jawa, with humorous Semar and the other clown-figures of
punakawan on the floor, powerful Krishna and
the pandawa brothers on the walls, and the singing perkutut birds around the
joglo-style gazebo in the garden.

    The
collaboration between the two universities started in 1992, firstly informally
but before long framed by a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the two
rectors. After the fall of Suharto, the joint activities in research and
student exchange gained momentum by the first funding from the Norwegian
Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Some form of financial support from the Norwegian
government has continued until now.

    During the
first years, the house was mainly used for accommodation by Norwegian exchange
students at UGM’s Master of Management Program, and for social and cultural
preparations for UGM students on their way to Kristiansand. Over the years, hundreds of
Norwegian students have lived for a while or come for lectures in Rumah
Norwegia, and close to 100 students and faculty members from UGM have gained
their first real knowledge of Norway and Scandinavia in that house. Currently
there are five students from UGM in Kristiansand,
one at the doctoral level and four studying for their master degrees. In the
coming spring semester, ten Agder University students will study natural
resource management at UGM. Click here for a report from a previous study tour
by Norwegian students. Recently, however, the House has mainly been used as a
centre for research on decentralization, transparency, and good governance in Indonesia.

    A number of
scientific articles have appeared and stimulated debates in international
journals, based on the research in Rumah Norwegia. The most recent one, to be
published by ISEAS in Singapore
in April 2009, deals with public sector reforms and financial transparency at
local level in Indonesia.
A main conclusion is that leading district bureaucrats have increased their
discretionary power recently, also facilitating enhanced local corruption. According
to one district head, a bupati, there is a leakage of at least 30 percent of
his district budget (APBD). External accountability is practically absent, and
district accounts remain unpublished and inaccessible to the public, even to
the elected representatives in local parliaments.

    Another
recent article focusing on procedures for public procurement at local level
after decentralization concludes that national laws on open bidding are
systematically omitted, and that corruption therefore flourishes. According to
one interviewed businessman, ‘if we don’t give kickback then we will not have
any project in the coming years’. A leading bureaucrat in one district states
that ‘if public procurement should be based on Keppres 80 [the national
regulation], local contractors would have no chance here’.

    If you drop
in at Sekip K-3 during the coming weeks, you will probably hear something about
the lack of transparency in Indonesian forest management. An interdisciplinary
team, including researchers from UGM’s faculties of Forestry, Law, Economics,
and Social and Political Science, has been working on preconditions for
implementing systems for carbon quota sales by conserving primary tropical forests.
Summing up findings from recent fieldworks in the Maluku, Flores, and
West-Papua, the team concludes that lots of preparations are still needed to
get ‘Ready for REDDI’ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation in
Indonesia).
Ownership structures and border lines need to be changed and made clear to all;
knowledge, competence and transparency on alternative utilization of forest
resources need to be enhanced; and forest monitoring and control of logging
must be improved. These are issues that certainly will be dealt with on the
campus of UGM also in the coming months and years.

    On a daily
basis, findings from the research in Rumah Norwegia are communicated directly
to bureaucrats and students in UGM’s Program Magister Administrasi Publik, just
around the corner on the campus in Sekip. Emphasis is also put on disseminating
results from joint research projects through participation in seminars and
workshops. One recent example is the international workshop in Jakarta
on governance and corruption in July this year, organized by University of Indonesia
and the Washington-based CSIS. For more information click here   A paper with the title ‘Recovering the costs
of power’ was presented and discussed. It later triggered a debate in
Indonesian newspapers on how the high costs of being democratically elected,
especially as a bupati, force power holders to regain investments by illicit
means and to hide their actions by maintaining transparency at very low levels.

    In Rumah
Norwegia, a Norwegian, or maybe rather a Scandinavian, political perspective
often contributes to making discussions lively, throwing some light on the many
challenges related to good governance in the Indonesian context. Experiences
from established mixed economies and united social democracies join with those
from an emerging economy and socio-cultural heterogeneity to create a fertile
soil for creative thoughts. How to implement the Freedom of Information Act at
national and local levels is one issue regularly debated in the house, and
typically gaining from the mixed perspectives on politics, economics, and
public administration. The role of media and educational institutions in
reducing information asymmetry in society is another topic regularly up for
discussion. Relevant governance issues are abundant, and new viewpoints are
always wanted.

    Again,
welcome for a cup of tea, a blend of Indonesian and Scandinavian cultures, and
a fruitful discussion in our Javanese Norway House.

 

 

 

 


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